Net gains from nuts

Last Updated 22 October 2010, 09:53 IST

These conclusions were made at a symposium on ‘Nuts and Cardiovascular Health’, organised by the INC recently at Barcelona, Spain.

The meet was attended by leading researchers from Europe, the United States and Australia.
The delegates spoke about the benefits of almonds, cashew, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts.

Pratap Nair, INC ambassador to India, said the symposium reviewed the main scientific studies that had examined the health benefits of consumption of nuts over the last five years.
He pointed out that nuts were energy-dense food, rich in total fat and unsaturated fatty acids, fibre, minerals and bioactive phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Prof Miguel A Martínez-González, University of Navarra, Spain, told the symposium that a study conducted on 8,865 men and women for 28 months found that frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain. In the Nurses Health Study, which included 51,188 women aged between 20 and 45, higher nut consumption was not associated with greater body weight gain during eight years of follow-up.  

Dr Joan Sabaté of Loma Linda University (USA) pointed out the results of a recently conducted pooled analysis of 25 intervention trials which confirmed the cholesterol-lowering effects of nuts.

Dr Sabaté, who chairs the Department of Nutrition in the School of Public Health in the university, claimed that nut consumption was a sensible and practical recommendation for those trying to follow heart-healthy diets.

Undoubtedly, the benefits come with high calorie additions too if nuts are consumed without  a limit.

Prof Ajithkumar, cardiologist at the Sree Chitra Institute of Medical Sciences in Thiruvananthapuram, says the benefits of eating nuts vary from person to person, and the nuts that one consumes.

“You cannot make a dietary recommendation that those with hypercholesterolemia or weight problems should consume nuts to get well,’’ he said.

Prof Linda C Tapsell of the University of Wollongong in Australia pointed out that nuts had potent gene regulation effects and influenced membrane composition and function.

She referred to a study in which consuming 30 grams of walnuts a day for six months resulted in improved lipid profile in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Results from another study that were discussed at the symposium proved that consuming 30 grams  of walnuts a day for one year showed improvement in weight loss and insulin levels.

However, Dr K Radhakrishna, who heads a food technology group at the Defence Food Research Laboratory at Mysore, said the benefits depend on various factors.

“It all depends on the individual who consumes it, the quantity of intake and the kind of nuts consumed. For instance, walnuts are not consumed too much in India and a study done on walnut consumption may show different results from that done on ground nuts,’’ he said.
Clearly, the best way to enjoy the benefits of nuts is through controlled eating.

(Published 22 October 2010, 09:53 IST)

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